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Neues Testament


Krauter, Stefan


Studien zu Röm 13,1–7. Paulus und der politische Diskurs der neronischen Zeit.


Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2009. XI, 354 S. 23,2 x 15,5 cm = Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 243. LW. EUR 99,00. ISBN 978-3-16-150099-2.


Edgar Krentz

Stefan Krauter gives Romans 13:1–7, an important passage on the relation of early Christians to the early imperial government, a careful, nuanced examination in the light of the political conditions under the Emperor Nero in the middle of the first century A. D., dividing his examination into five sections. Such interest in the Roman context is a recent development in New Testament studies, arising out of interest in the social context initiated by Gerd Theissen in Germany and Wayne Meeks in America, and applied to Rome. K. describes his goal in this way: »Eben dies, den in der Geschichte des Christentums vielfach zu politischen Zwecken gebrauchten Text Röm 13,1–7 im Kontext der Herrschaft und der Herrschaftsideologie des Römischen Reiches zu seiner Abfassungszeit historisch zu analysieren – kritisch und doch ohne vorschnelle, sei es positive, sei es negative Wertung –, ist das Ziel dieser Arbeit« (2). K. recognizes that almost no other passage in the New Testament is so weighed down by an »Auslegungs- und Wirkungsgeschichte« (2). Concentrating on the Roman imperial context can provide a useful way to advance our understanding of this passage.
K. first gives a brief Forschungsbericht (1–54), selecting representatives of divergent views on the passage. Roman Catholic interpretation stresses natural law as the framework in which to interpret Rom 13:1–7, as Vladimir Zsifkovits makes clear. It is in essence a philosophical-dogmatic construct, which interprets the state as a god-given institution over against the construct of a »Volkssouveränität« (5–8). Otto Eck is taken as representative of the basic Lutheran interpretation of government as the means to secure order in public life (8–9), based on the Lutheran »Two-kingdoms« teaching. In the kingdom of the left hand obedience is demanded. If the state demands what is against god, then martyrdom, not insurrection, is the only possibility. Brief discussions of Oscar Cullmann’s angelic interpretation of ἐξουσίαι and Ernst Käsemann’s anchoring of the text in a parenetic answer to early Christian enthusiasm’s rejection of the state, arose out of the need to respond to National Socialism. After Käsemann one can no longer hold that Rom 13:1–7 is designed to teach about the role of the state (9–15). Rolf Walker’s theological interpretation regards the passage as an expression of the wrath of God, having little to do with any theory of the state. In subsequent sections K. traces later developments in the German interpretation of Duchrow, Wilckens, Haacker, Wischmeyer, the New Perspective on Paul (Dunn, Tellbe) and the »New View of Paul« as concerned solely with non-Jews (Gager, Stowers, Nanos) and an anti-imperial interpretation (Wengst, Crossan, Elliott, Georgi, Horsley). This latter gives some important stimuli to he ongoing investigation of this passage (31). Finally a brief report on conservative English language authors and the discussion of the text in South Africa in the face of apartheid conclude the survey (32–39).
In Chapter 2 (55–136) K. examines the historical situation in mid-first century Rome in which Paul writes Rom 13:1–7. He first describes the attitude toward Nero by Romans (55–88). All ancient historians who discuss Nero (Tacitus, Ann 13–16, L. Claudius Cassius Dio Cocceianus 61–63, and C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Nero) are tendentious, dominated by a pro-republican Senate bias (Tacitus and Dio Cassius) or interested in character description (Suetonius). Inscriptions and coinage, the report of Nero’s inaugural orations (Tacitus, Ann 13.4) and the panegyrics by Seneca (Apopocolocyntosis, and De clementia), Lucan in the introduction to his De bello civili, Calpurnius Siculus Eclogues, and the Carmina Einsidlensia (all dated more closely to the time of Romans 13) are more positive, praising Nero as better than Claudius and more positive in his relations to the senate. K. rejects the position that the panegyrics are ironic. After brief discussions of Nero’s first five years (54–59), his tax policies, and his rejection in imperial cult, K. concludes this section as follows: »Die Grundaufgabe bleibt also, die Rolle der Person Nero und die der Institution Principat in ihrer Wechselwirkung zu be­werten.« (88) I wish he had stressed more the chronological relation of this material to the origins of Romans.
K. next turns to Paul (88–124). He argues that Paul could have been both Pharisee and Roman citizen by correlating Acts’ account of Paul in Roman contests with 2 Cor 6:5, 11:23–25, and 12:10–11. Acts is critical of Rome, but does not regard Roman rule illegitimate, while Paul never makes his relation to Roman authorities clear. Paul was and remained a diaspora Jew, yet later was in conflict with Judaism. – K.’s bibliography (289–331) is impressive, including many English language entries. – Judaism had widely disparate reactions to Roman rule, so Paul, influenced as he was by apocalyptic thought, fits with­in Jewish reactions to Rome, though one cannot establish a genealogical relation of Paul to specific Jewish texts. K. concludes that the Jews of Asia Minor and Greece, from whose life experience Paul was formed, had primarily good reactions to Roman imperial rule. This included Jewish reactions to Roman ruler cult, which was widely spread throughout Asia Minor. Paul never expressly discussed ruler cult, though he was in many πόλεις in Asia Minor, where ruler cult was in vogue; ruler cult was less prevalent in mainland Greece. Paul would have known ruler cult and may have shared the respect Jews had for the imperator as benefactor (εὐεργέτης), with some reservations (no cult statues, no direct participation in cultic observances). Once again, no simple conclusions about Paul and Romans 13 can be drawn; he is closer to diaspora Judaism than to those Jews who were directly antagonistic to ruler cult. That he never discussed it »scheint eher daraufhin zu deuten, dass er für ihn eine Frage von untergeordneter Bedeutung war« (124).
K. next turns to the situation of Christians in Rome itself (125–136). Rom 16:3–16 is a key text in this respect. The prosopography for this chapter suggests that some are peregrini, others slaves, or liberti with citizenship though probably not among the elite upper classes. Some were Jews; some others gentiles who adopted some Jewish traits (e. g., abstinence from pork). One cannot determine with precision who the strong and weak in Romans 14–15 were. Finally, K. discusses the relations of official Rome to Jews and Christians, based primarily on Suetonius, Claudius 25.4. He holds that this reflects the beginning of a process of separation for Christians from Jews in Rome, which resulted in Christian house churches. This may be correct, though there is no direct evidence for house churches in the text of Romans.
The third chapter (137–160) presents the epistolary and historical milieu for the writing of Rom 13:1–7 in the context of the entire letter. K. notes that the framework of the letter, written about 56 C. E., is normal. (He does not mention the absence of ἐκκλησία in the praescript, which supports the idea of multiple house churches.) The body of the letter (Rom 1:16 to 15:13) is not a doctrinae cheris-tianae compendium (142), since Romans 9–11 is clearly not an excursus or an aside. And Rom 12:1–15:13 also is a necessary part of the letter, since its concern with the life of the Romans corresponds to the false way of life in Rom 1:18–32. Much of the letter, including Rom 13:1–7, is indirect, second order communication, in which the »you, I and we« do not directly refer to writer and readers. »Die Indirektheit dieser Kommunikation hinsichtlich der personalen Bezüge entspricht der Unbestimmtheit hinsichtlich der räumlichen und zeitlichen Bezüge.« This characterizes the entire letter; the (rather impersonal) relationship between Paul and the Romans does not allow for direct instruction of the Romans by Paul.
How does this relate to the historical situation behind the letter? Paul could have learned something of the Roman situation from people he knows there, especially Aquila and Prisca. K. rejects the proposals that Rom 13:1–7 is simply a Jewish topos, or that Paul responds to Roman enthusiasts, zealots, unrest about taxes (cf. Tacitus, Ann 13.50), or the experiences in 49 C. E. under Claudius. As so often in these first three chapters, the fazit that K’s research produces is at best a possibility. There is an historical situation behind the letter, but current scholarship has not identified a persuasive possibility. Perhaps a careful exegesis of the text will provide a solution.
Chapter 4 presents a meticulous, detailed exegesis of Rom 13:1–7 (161–242). As chapter 1 held, the location of the individual statements of the text in the political discourse of the Neronian era together with its tradition-historical handicaps must take a central role in the interpretation. K. first traces the argumentative structure of the passage in a section titled »Überblick über den Gang der Argumentation« (162–70), paying close attention to the particles and the significant vocabulary. The passage is dominated by language of »under« and »over«. He follows with a close reading of significant vocabulary: πᾶσα ψυχή is universal in scope, not restricted to Christians. K. argues that ἐξουσίαι ὑπερεχούσαι and ἄρ-χοντης denote political powers, against Strobel’s interpretation of Latin »Amtssprache« and Cullmann’s interpretation of angelic beings. On the other hand the terms do not refer to a precisely defined person or named individual (Nero, 177). Rather it is a general reference to all possible rulers.
In a section titled »Die Normbildung von Herrschaft« he discusses significant language related to the concept of legitimate rule. Rom 13:1b clearly legitimates a foreign government; here Paul follows the wisdom tradition, Josephus and a Greco-Roman topos (in legitimating government by invoking divine institution). He discusses, inter alia, the terms ἀγαθόν – kακόν, as »actively doing good«, not just the promotion of well-being. Thus Paul is anchored in the active ethical tradition here. Roman Christians are to carry out the will of God. Paul uses other language in similar fashion: ἔπαινος (the resulting praise), μάχαιρα (the ius gladii, the right to execute), θεοῦ διάκονος (not cultic) and ἐνέχεσθαι δουλείας (a Stoic view or ruler authority as expressed in Seneca’s De clementia): »Die ehrenvolle Sklaverei des Herrschers besteht darin, dass der Herrscher auf Grund seiner herausgehobenen Stellung in weit größerem Ausmaß an Maßstäbe richtigen Handelns gebunden ist als ein ›normaler‹ Mensch.« (210) The ruler is dependent on God and put in place by God. Roman rulers are not divine, but servants of God.
The Christian is to subordinate oneself to the ruler (ὑποτάσσεσθαι) in a hierarchical structure, a relationship well-known in Greek, Roman, and Jewish texts (216). To resist brings wrath, to be subject occurs because of συνείδησις. Paul uses a well-known tradition that one ideally submits to authority not because of superior force, but because of one’s insight into the nature of government. Thus necessity, respect and honor are involved, marks of ancient hierarchical society (ὀφειλή, φόβος, τιμή).
K. concludes on p. 238: »Röm 13,1–7 lässt sich hingegen in den politisichen Diskurs des frühen Prinzipats — oder genauer der neronianischen Zeit — einordnen. Es bestehen vielfältige enge Verbindungen zu Vorstellungen, die in der griechischen und römischen politischen Theorie geläufig und zu Entstehungszeiten des Textes aktuell waren.« One cannot however point to ties to specific ancient texts.
Finally, in Chapter 5, K. discusses how Rom 13:1–7 fits into the context of Romans 12 ff. and into the broader context of Paul’s views of government. He seeks to correlate Rom 13:1–7 with 1 Thess 5:1–3, holding that there is not intentional contrast with Roman pax romana in Paul’s »peace and security«. K. holds, without demonstration that 1 Thessalonians uses apocalyptic language (assuming that 1 Thess 2:14–16 is an authentic Pauline text, not considering the possibility that it is an interpolation), rejecting the position that 1 Thess 4:13–18 might use the Roman imperial παρουσία, a political act, as its foil. Roman coinage uses pax et securitas as a reverse legend. There is no archaeological evidence for the presence of a Jewish community in Thessalonica in the first century, while there is evidence for ruler cult. Reading the many occurrences of παρουσία in 1 Thessalonians and 4:13–18 in the light of Roman era texts such as PsSal 8:14–19 would support such a reading. A simil­-ar case can be made for reading Phil 3:20 as a text to counter Roman ruler cult. K. strives to make Paul consistent in his view of Rome. Using the method of reading these texts he used in interpreting Rom 13:1–7 would lead to different conclusions.
What shall we say to all this? First, K. has found a new way to approach Romans 13:1–7: He uses Roman literary texts as his entry into the text. The result is an interpretation that shows how a literate Roman could understand Paul’s text as a positive evaluation of Roman authority, a more positive view of the Roman imperial government than is usual in Jewish and early Christian texts. Much American New Testament scholarship now regularly describes the Roman rule as repressive and evil. Chapter 4, the heart of the work, is a carefully written, closely argued interpretation of Rom 13:1–7. His presentation is carefully nuanced throughout, often concluding that one cannot be certain about specific issues, a work of excellent scholarship, carefully nuanced, persuasive in its argumentation, original in its approach to the text. Scholars will need to read him and take his work into account.
K. presented this work as his Habilitationsschrift to the theological faculty of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in 2009.